Adoption records are most secretive in public files

By RON SHAWGO, ©1998 The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette

Evansville Courier

February 23, 1998

Some of the most secretive records held by any public agency are those involving adoptions.

Because emotions surrounding adoption are so strong, states are reluctant to hand records out

Indiana is no exception.

Although a 1993 state law made it a little easier for adopted people to get information about their birth parents and siblings, in many cases it still takes a judge to decide if those records should be disclosed.

About 100 to 125 people petition the court each year to open adoption records in Indiana, said Burton Garten, staff attorney for the Indiana Department of Health, which maintains the records.

"They are adult adoptees or birth parents, or occasionally it might be an adoptive parent filing on behalf of a child who isn’t an adult," Garten said.

For adoptions finalized before Jan. 1, 1994, adoptees who are at least 21 can get their adoption records if one birth parent files a consent form or both birth parents are dead.

For adoptions after that date, adult adoptees can get the records if their birth parents have not filed a no-release form. Adoptees also can get information about their natural siblings if the adoptee and siblings give permission for the release.

Adoption records minus information that would identify individuals can be released when requested by an adoptee, birth parent, adoptive parent or natural sibling. They also can be released to a spouse or relative of a birth parent or adoptee who has died.

Medical information about birth parents has been required on adoption records since 1985.

Since then adoptees and adoptive parents have been able to get that information through the state health department’s medical history registry, Garten said.

© 1998 The E.W. Scripps Co.

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